House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, work to extend highway 50 will soon begin, and the federal government has yet to put its financial contribution on the table. It seems that the federal government's intention is to call on the private sector to invest in strategic infrastructures, which means that we could end up with highway 50 being a toll road.

Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell us if he intends to soon announce Ottawa's contribution, and whether his strategy includes making highway 50 a toll road?

Highway Infrastructure
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, first, the bill is still before the House.

Second, I met the minister, Mr. Boisclair, last week in Montreal. We had an opportunity to discuss the bill on this strategic infrastructure fund. I explained to Mr. Boisclair the plans that already exist regarding this initiative. We are certainly very interested in Quebec's priorities, and in our own priorities.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to what the Minister of Public Works and Government Services said about Groupaction Marketing.

It is not enough, frankly, to say that the final report is not available. The minister has an obligation to tell us why the final report is not available. Where is it? Who is responsible for the fact that it is not available and who is being held accountable? Or is the minister looking in his vast repertoire of binders hoping it might have been misplaced there at some point?

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I will take the last remark as a compliment to the fact that I have several briefing notes and excellent people preparing them.

However, to answer the hon. member's question, I indicated to the House in answer to two other questions that even though the report is, as I said three years old, it should still be available today. I do not have the final document at the present time.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Are you looking for it?

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

The hon. member should listen to the answer as I listened to his question.

In terms of the preparatory documents, they have been made available to the reporter who made the access to information request. I have asked that the matter be looked into so that I can get the document--

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

We will have one final question from the right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Health
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is supplemental to the question asked by the hon. member for Yellowhead.

The Minister of Health indicated that the guidelines of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will be changed if those guidelines are not consistent with the government's new bill.

Does the minister consider those guidelines to be in effect now? Can they be counted on?

Health
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the CIHR released those guidelines last week. They do apply to publicly funded research that is approved by the CIHR and will continue to apply to that publicly funded research until such time as federal legislation is introduced. If there are inconsistencies then those guidelines will be changed.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and Minister responsible for Infrastucture in Yukon.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

March 11th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege raised in the House on March 1 by the member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam concerning a report on the grain handling and transportation system for the 2001 crop year, pursuant to subsection 50(3.2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

I sent you a letter on Friday, Mr. Speaker, to explain my position since I was unable to respond on March 1. With the consent of the House I propose to table the letter. I sent a copy to the hon. member and to my colleagues, the House leader and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I would like to clarify the matter that was raised by my hon. friend. The government's policy reforms on the grain handling and transportation system announced on May 10, 2000 included a commitment to hire an independent private sector third party to monitor the system

The intention was for the independent monitor to provide information to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and other interested parties on the impact of the 2000 policy reforms and on the overall performance of the system.

The Canada Transportation Act was amended in the summer of 2000 to implement the government's policy decision. This included amendments to facilitate grain monitoring.

An amendment to section 51 of the act authorized the Minister of Transport to communicate information, including confidential information, for the purpose of monitoring the grain handling and transportation system. The amendments also specifically added monitoring the grain transportation handling system as a purpose for which regulations on transportation related information could be made under section 50(1).

The government accepted an opposition amendment, and that is very important here, requiring the Minister of Transport to table in parliament a report on the monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system. The amendment is contained in subsection 50(3.2).

I note that the obligation to table a report in parliament under subsection 50(3.2) is conditional on the Minister of Transport making regulations pursuant to paragraph 50(1)(e.1) and the minister using or communicating the information provided under the regulation for the purpose of monitoring the grain handling and transportation system.

The obligation to table a report on the monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system is clearly contingent upon the happening of certain events. Those events are the making or the amending of regulations under the authority of subsection 50(1) subsequent to the coming into force of the obligation and the use or communication of information under those regulations for the purpose of monitoring.

As regulations have not been made or amended under the authority of subsection 50(1) and since the coming into force of the obligation, there is no legal requirement to table a report.

Rather than resorting to regulations to force industry stakeholders to submit information to the minister to share with the grain monitor, the preferred approach was for industry stakeholders to voluntarily provide information directly to the grain monitor.

I also note that the carriers and transportation and grain handling undertakings information regulations were made pursuant to section 50 and have been in place since 1996. No substantive amendments have been made to these regulations since December 1999.

I wish to emphasize however that it is the Minister of Transport's intention to release a report on grain monitoring and to make copies available to parliamentarians as soon as possible once I have received the annual report for crop year 2000-01 from the grain monitor, Quorum Corporation.

Quorum Corporation was hired last summer through a competitive process to perform the duties of the grain monitor and one of its main responsibilities is to prepare an annual report on the performance of the grain transportation and handling system. The report is to be submitted to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board and the Minister of Transport.

The implementation of the grain monitoring program has been fairly complex and has taken a considerable amount of time primarily as a result of work related to the development of a comprehensive database that includes information from the railways, the grain companies, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Ports Clearance Association.

The information and data received by the monitor provide an objective basis for conducting analysis. This is the first time such an extensive database and analysis has been put in place for monitoring the grain handling and transportation system. Once the process and database are established it is expected that Quorum Corporation will be able to submit its annual report on a more timely basis.

Generally speaking, grain moved well in the 2000-01 crop year and is moving well so far this year.

I might add that was a prediction that my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and I made during the discussions on Bill C-34 two years ago.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has determined that the grain revenues for CN and CP for crop year 2000-01 were under the revenue caps established as part of the May 2000 policy decision. As well, the Canadian Wheat Board and the grain companies have implemented new commercial arrangements to cover the logistics of wheat board movements.

Quorum is in the final stages of preparing the annual report for crop year 2000-01. As noted above, it is my intention to release a report on grain monitoring and to make copies available to parliamentarians as soon as possible once he has received the report from Quorum.

I would hope that these remarks would clarify the alleged question of privilege raised by my hon. friend. I submit that there is no prima facie case, that I have met all the statutory requirements and met them faithfully.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member indicated that he was tabling a letter that he sent to me. I do not believe he requires the consent of the House to table the document. Holding the exalted title he has of a minister of the crown, he is therefore entitled to table the document, and I assume we will take it as tabled.

Does the hon. member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam have further light to shed on this matter that will assist the Chair in reaching a decision?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the regulations that existed before the passing of Bill C-34, amendments to the Canada Transportation Act in June 2000, required grain handling firms and rail carriers to provide information to the Minister of Transport to collect sufficient information necessary for the monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system.

However, before the passage of Bill C-34, the government did not have the authority to use the information collected under section 50 of the Canada Transportation Act for monitoring. Bill C-34 changed how the information collected under the authority of section 50 of the act could be used by adding section 50(1)(e.1), monitoring the grain transportation and handling system.

It should be noted that the regulations passed pursuant to section 50 of the act cover all parts of section 50 of the act and not individual parts.

The reporting requirements outlined in section 50(3.2) of the act, as inserted by Bill C-34, were triggered when the carriers and transportation and grain handling undertakings information regulations were used to collect information from carriers and grain handling enterprises and this information was communicated to Quorum Corporation to carry out monitoring of the grain, as anticipated in the new sections inserted into the CTA by Bill C-34.

These two necessary conditions have clearly been met. I will quote from the press release issued by the Ministers of Transport, Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Canadian Wheat Board of June 19, 2001:

The Minister of Transport, the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, today announced that Quorum Corporation has been hired to monitor and assess the overall efficiency of Canada's grain handling and transportation system.

The June 19 press release further states:

Quorum Corporation will collect and analyze data from railways, grain companies.

This information is collected under the authority of section 50 of the Canada Transportation Act.

Parliament clearly intended that when the Minister of Transport undertook formal monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system, the minister would report the results of this monitoring effort to parliament at least once per year. The minister is engaging in formal monitoring of the system and is using his authority under section 50 of the act to collect information from grain handlers and rail carriers. The minister is getting quarterly and annual reports, again his own press release states “Quorum Corporation will provide quarterly and annual reports” from Quorum Corporation and yet is refusing to abide by the will of parliament and table a report. Again, I view this as contempt.

The government is correct, the regulations in question were brought into effect on July 1, 1996. However, the specific purpose of “monitoring the grain handling and transportation system” could not have been part of the purpose of the regulations because these provisions did not exist in the act until June 2001.

The government claims that the regulations required to trigger the reporting requirement have not been met. In order for this argument to hold, he must answer two basic questions, which I suggest he cannot do.

First, if the Minister of Transport is not supplying Quorum Corporation with information obtained under the authority granted by section 50 of the Canada Transportation Act, how is Quorum obtaining the information necessary to carry out its contractual mandate of monitoring the grain handling and transportation system?

Second, if Quorum Corporation is obtaining information through the authority granted to the minister in section 50 of the act but is not obtaining the information under section 50(1)(e.1), by what authority is it using this information to monitor the grain handling and transportation system given the fact that this purpose for the collection of the information was not anticipated before section 50(1)(e.1) was inserted into the act with the passing of Bill C-34 in June 2000?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I can only advise the House, having heard these quite fascinating arguments on both sides, that the Chair will take the matter under advisement and spend a little time reviewing it.

The hon. member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam could perhaps provide additional assistance to the Chair if he could make available to us a copy of the press release to which he referred in his arguments. I think it might be helpful in examining what the minister is alleged to have said on past occasions in terms of what the company is supposed to collect.

Not being an expert in grain handling, I must say this one is perplexing for the Chair, but somehow I will muddle through and come back with a decision at some point to assist the House.